Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Abdication and Constitutional Confusion in Japan

Recently, the ruling coalition in the Japanese government, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, approved a bill which will allow His Majesty the Emperor to abdicate. Readers may recall that in August of last year, the Emperor addressed the nation hinting or implying as much as he was constitutionally able to that this was his wish. The bill must now make it through the Diet but, as the government supports it, this should not be unduly difficult. What seems strange about this, at least to outsiders, is that this bill would apply to the current Emperor of Japan and the current Emperor only. In other words, barring any other change, an elderly Emperor Naruhito may have to go through this same process all over again if he wishes to step down. Why is this? It is because of the Japanese constitution which is, frankly, rather a mess. In fact, that may be the only thing “traditional” about it in as much as the former Meiji Constitution likewise resulted in a political establishment that was rather a mess. That being said, personally, I would be perfectly happy to see the Meiji Constitution restored today with but one or two changes and would consider that a vast improvement.

According to the constitution, the Emperor of Japan cannot abdicate, plain and simple as it contains no provision for such a thing and amending the constitution is an extremely difficult and complicated process in a country that has advanced bureaucratic complexity and government stagnation to heights that would astonish even Austria-Hungary. The issue of abdication not being addressed in the constitution is, however, indicative of a wider issue that covers many problems currently facing modern Japan. At the outset, consider the source of it; the oldest monarchy on earth has a constitution written for it (essentially) by the most powerful republic on earth (one could almost say oldest but that might offend the proud denizens of San Marino and it tends to embarrass the republicans when their heights of longevity are measured in a few centuries while monarchies go back for millennia). This has resulted in Japan having a very confused political foundation as a monarchy that operates with a very republican sort of rulebook. Originally, as some may know, the United States, after World War II, thought the Japanese themselves would draw up a new constitution but every proposal put forward was basically the old Meiji Constitution with a few minor changes so that two army officers, Milo and Courtney, came up with a draft of their own, with ideas from a group of advisors including an Austrian-born Ukrainian Jewish immigrant to Japan whose expertise seems to be interpretive dance. She added the parts about women getting to vote which, much to the annoyance of Caroline Kennedy, has not yet resulted in a total takeover of Japanese politics by women. Yet.

This is, I think, why so much of how Japan is politically organized makes little sense to most people. Personally, I tend to be rather rigid on issues like this such as the fundamental question of where ultimate authority and independence derives from. We call this “sovereignty”. In the old days, it was perfectly simple; Japan was a monarchy, the Emperor was the sovereign and head of state, all government authority being based on his “divine right”. This is technically though not effectively the way it works in the English-speaking monarchies. However, according to the current Japanese constitution, the Emperor is not the head of state, though he effectively fulfills that role, and he is not the sovereign as under the new constitution Japan is, like the United States, based on “popular sovereignty” (which is a nonsense we have talked about before here). Other monarchies are based on popular sovereignty and I think it is just as silly for them as it is for Japan. It is not real, it is basically an example of sophistry and if everyone is the sovereign it effectively means that no one is the sovereign and I find that to be a big problem.

The new constitution also abolished the Kazoku or aristocracy and with it the House of Peers, replacing it with an elected House of Councilors. This has proven to be just as bad as when the United States Senate went from being appointed by the states to being popularly elected during the horrific Wilson administration. It is redundant and needlessly complicates things while at the same time furthering the revolutionary lie of equality which practically everyone in Japan has too much sense to really accept as fact anyway. If you don’t believe me, look at how prosperous and powerful the Tokugawa clan still is to this day. Japanese industry, politics and high society is still largely dominated by the same families who were the aristocratic class in the time before World War II. This no doubt seemed completely loyal to the Americans who never had an official, titled aristocracy and who were quite accustomed to pretending equality exists while all the time knowing that they had an elite as well, albeit one based on a far more erratic and arbitrary way of deciding who is and who is not a member of that elite. However, aside from obvious examples such as the Kennedy crime family, just take a look at how many members of the U.S. Senate hold seats that previously belonged to older generations of the same family.

Then, of course, there is the absurd situation regarding the lack of a formal military in Japan. This is something so insane that even the United States recognized the fault a long time ago. Japan actually spends more on the Self-Defense Forces than most countries spend on their own militaries, the JSDF is larger than the militaries of many countries and more advanced than most as well. However, absurdly, this force is technically an outgrowth of the police and is not, officially, a military and is heavily restricted. They can possess no offensive weapons, no capital warships and can not engage in any military activity unless Japan is directly attacked. Not only does this allow an enemy a “free pass” to get in the first strike against Japan should conflict ever arise, it also means that Japan is at a permanent disability when it comes to foreign policy. It also means, combined with the odd situation the Emperor was placed in, that the Prime Minister, a politician who is a partisan, temporary, care-taker of the government, is Commander-in-Chief rather than the Emperor as head of state. This is, of course, because the Emperor is not, officially, the head of state and sovereign of Japan because of that “popular sovereignty” nonsense. Even other monarchies that have the ridiculous establishment of “popular sovereignty” do not have a similar situation regarding the military. For example, even in the Kingdom of Belgium, which is a “popular monarchy” in which the King does not become King officially until he swears his oath to the constitution, the King is still commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

The problem this brings up in diplomatic terms is that there is no reason for any country to want to form an official military alliance with Japan and, to date, the only official military ally of Japan is the United States. This is because such alliances are based on the promise of mutual self-defense or that one country will aid the other country if it is attacked. However, Japan is currently not allowed to go to war or engage in hostilities with anyone unless Japan itself is directly attacked. So, who would want to form an alliance with Japan in which they would have to help Japan if Japan was attacked but Japan would not help them if they were attacked? Obviously, the answer is no one but the United States and, as stated, has urged Japan to strengthen itself since the 1970’s on the quite simple grounds that only a strong ally is worth having whereas a weak ally is only a liability.

The absurdity of this situation should be obvious to everyone and yet, both because the constitution is so hard to amend and because of the lunatic left-wing in Japan, change has only just begun to come thanks to the leadership of the Abe government and the growing threat of North Korea combined with the recent massive buildup of the Communist Chinese military, particularly the People’s Liberation Army Navy. Why would anyone in Japan oppose rational, national self-defense? Some of them are basically paid agents of the Red Chinese, others are simply leftist crazies who, like leftists everywhere else, like to feel morally superior by tearing down their own side. These are the people who feel self-righteous and morally superior to all others specifically because Japan does not have an official military and they like to pretend that Japan has enjoyed peace and tranquility since 1945 because they do not have a military. Which, of course, is not true as anyone with half a brain knows that Japan has been at peace since 1945 only because countries like China or North Korea know that the United States would unleash a rain of fiery death on anyone who messed with Japan. Communist China invaded Tibet, South Korea, India, Vietnam, technically The Philippines and so on. Does anyone really believe they would hesitate to attack Japan, the country they hate more than any other, if not for the threat of retaliation from America? Obviously, the answer is no.

Anytime that issue comes up, however, the opponents of any change will usually say that the alliance with America makes any concern over national defense unnecessary. This is, again, stupid and short-sighted. As mentioned, a strong ally is a help whereas a weak ally is a hindrance. Furthermore, there are those on both the left and right in Japan who maintain that their problems with their neighbors could all be solved if it were not for the close ties between Japan and America. Personally, I doubt that, however, the possibility is worth considering simply from the American perspective. After all, in economic terms, China is far more important to America than Japan. Japan has little to no natural resources, buys far less from the United States than Japan does and relations with China as well as Russia, a resource-rich country America has no reason to be at odds with, would undoubtedly improve dramatically if America removed its bases and military forces from Japan, something Russia and China have been calling for practically since the end of World War II. There is certainly a case to be made on a purely dispassionate, self-interested basis. In any event, it should at least show that no country should depend entirely on another for their national defense. That is true regardless of the situation and, if the Japanese themselves deem it preferable to end the alliance with America, a constitutional change would be necessary if they were to choose to instead put their trust in a system of alliances with countries such as Taiwan, The Philippines, Vietnam or India to back them up in case of trouble.

All of this is why constitutional reform, at bare minimum, is absolutely essential. However, I think it also shows that more than just reform is really needed. Japan should simply discard the current constitution entirely and start over from blank paper with a purely Japanese-drafted constitution which is based on Japanese traditions and better suited to their own people and heritage. As I said, in my view, the Meiji Constitution would be a good place to start as they were was not much wrong with it other than in one or two areas and being a bit too vague in a few areas. I am afraid, if this is not done, the problems Japan currently faces will only because worse and the longer one waits, the more ossified the current complexities will become and the harder it will be to do anything which will result in political stagnation. Certainly, given the dwindling ranks of the Imperial Family and the fact that the continued life of the most ancient dynasty on earth is currently resting entirely on the shoulders of one 10-year old boy should be enough to motivate people into making some major changes and it has to be done when a government is in power that is at least reasonably trustworthy (I would not want this done under a Democrat prime minister to be sure). Japan is a monarchy and, if it is to have a constitution, it should have a monarchist constitution that is informed by Japanese values and customs and none other.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your insight into this do you think the trump administration would know any of this?


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